Couple successfully completes paired kidney transplant - KCTV5

Couple successfully completes paired kidney transplant

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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

An emotional reunion at the University of Kansas Hospital is just the beginning of a new life for 60 year-old Carlos Lovato, of Andover, KS. 

Lovato melted into tears, profusely thanking his wife Vicky at first sight of her.

“She's not only the one I love and been with for 40 years, she's my hero. She saved my life,” Carlos Lovato said.

He hadn't seen his wife Vicky Lovato since the morning before when the two separated for surgery - he was getting a new kidney, she was giving hers.

But Vicky Lovato wasn't giving to her husband, the two weren't a medical match. After three years of dialysis, Carlos Lovato's health was becoming desperate for a healthy kidney.

“It got to be such a nightmare. We figured we got to do something. This pair donation just really worked out. Not only did it save his life, but it saved another person's life as well,” Vicky Lovato said.

The Lovato's are the first Kansas City patients to successfully undergo a pair donation. The nationwide kidney swap program pairs family members like the husband and wife, who aren't matches for each other, with another set of family members in the same situation.

Though Vicky Lovato didn't match with her husband, she did match with a sick spouse in Pennsylvania. And though the East Coast couple didn't match with each other, the healthy one did match with Carlos Lovato. Vicky Lovato agreed to give her kidney to the spouse in Pennsylvania, whose spouse then donated his or her kidney to Carlos. Their identities were not released.

“It was a couple exactly like us, only opposite,” Vicky Lovato explained.

Dr. Bruce Kaplan, director of transplants at the University of Kansas Hospital, said the national kidney swap program allows patients to find the best kidney for that patient. It reduces the chance of organ rejection, the most common kind of complication.

“They're pairs or they can also be dominos. It can go up to eight or nine algorithms to swap and those are called domino transplants,” Kaplan said.

When patients find living kidney donors, it frees up the donor list for the most critically ill. It also optimizes a patient's survival rate.

“Instead of giving you a kidney which is going to give you a much shorter life span, you get an optimal kidney and in return, you, the other person - in New York or Pennsylvania - gets an optimal kidney as well,” Kaplan said.

Beyond blood types, some patients have antibodies that reject certain kidneys making it extremely difficult to find kidneys that match. Doctors say the more donors on a list, the more everyone has a chance of finding a healthy transplant.

“All of a sudden I'm feeling so much better. I thought, this is unbelievable. It's hard to explain. Overwhelmed,” Carlos Lovato said.

Kaplan said there is only one other couple enrolled in the kidney swap program through the University of Kansas Hospital and not all potential donors meet the extensive medical checklist. 

Some families choose not to enroll because of hesitation surrounding a donation that won't end up inside someone's loved one.

The Lovato's are the 43rd kidney swap in the United States.

Carlos and Vicky Lovato have battled through years of dialysis, lost jobs and financial strains that illnesses can often cause. But the two are ready to move forward with a message.

“People need to know what a difference it can make and if someone has a kidney that matches, you sure need to get out there and give it,” Vicky Lovato said.

Friends and family of the Lovato's have set up a Go Fund Me account to help with their medical expenses not covered under their healthcare.

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